LVMH to shut store amid Hong Kong protests

HONG KONG: Luxury brand Louis Vuitton is closing a major store in a high-end Hong Kong shopping centre often targeted by democracy protesters, local media reported.

The international retailer plans to shut its shop in the financial hub’s Times Square mall after its landlord, Wharf Real Estate Investment Corporation, refused to lower the rent, according to the South China Morning Post’s report Friday.

The store in the commercial heartland of Causeway Bay – one of the brand’s eight shopfronts in the city – occupies 10,000 square feet of prime second-floor space in the mall.

Monthly rent reportedly costs an estimated HK$5 million according to industry consultants.

Louis Vuitton Hong Kong, Times Square and Wharf have not responded to enquiries from AFP.

The news of the potential closure came after the Hong Kong government released its latest retail sales figures, posting its 10th consecutive monthly drop in November 2019 and striking a year-on-year decline of over 23%.

Jewellery, watches, clocks and luxury gifts formed the most seriously hit category, with a year-on-year plunge of 43.5%.

The government blamed violent protests for disrupting tourism and affected consumption sentiments.

The Times Square mall has been a popular target of “Shop With You” rallies when protesters would gather to chant slogans and march, hoping to force shops to close down and impose economic pressure on the government.

In the third quarter last year, LVMH, the parent group of Louis Vuitton, reported a better-than-expected overall performance but a sales revenue drop of 25% in Hong Kong.

Luxury brands in Hong Kong have been relying heavily on a large influx of mainland Chinese tourists, which on the other hand has been a problem complained by local residents for years.

According to the latest figures released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, only 2.65 million people visited in November 2019, a decline of 56% from the same period last year.

Hong Kong has been battered by protests for seven months, which from time to time fell into violent clashes between protesters and riot police.

The demonstration was first triggered by a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China. It has morphed into a larger revolt for democratic freedom and against China’s control over the semi-autonomous city.